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1.  An R package "VariABEL" for genome-wide searching of potentially interacting loci by testing genotypic variance heterogeneity 
BMC Genetics  2012;13:4.
Hundreds of new loci have been discovered by genome-wide association studies of human traits. These studies mostly focused on associations between single locus and a trait. Interactions between genes and between genes and environmental factors are of interest as they can improve our understanding of the genetic background underlying complex traits. Genome-wide testing of complex genetic models is a computationally demanding task. Moreover, testing of such models leads to multiple comparison problems that reduce the probability of new findings. Assuming that the genetic model underlying a complex trait can include hundreds of genes and environmental factors, testing of these models in genome-wide association studies represent substantial difficulties.
We and Pare with colleagues (2010) developed a method allowing to overcome such difficulties. The method is based on the fact that loci which are involved in interactions can show genotypic variance heterogeneity of a trait. Genome-wide testing of such heterogeneity can be a fast scanning approach which can point to the interacting genetic variants.
In this work we present a new method, SVLM, allowing for variance heterogeneity analysis of imputed genetic variation. Type I error and power of this test are investigated and contracted with these of the Levene's test. We also present an R package, VariABEL, implementing existing and newly developed tests.
Variance heterogeneity analysis is a promising method for detection of potentially interacting loci. New method and software package developed in this work will facilitate such analysis in genome-wide context.
PMCID: PMC3398297  PMID: 22272569
single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs); genome-wide association (GWA); gene-environment interactions (GxE); gene-gene interactions (GxG); variance heterogeneity; environmental sensitivity; VariABEL; the GenABEL project
2.  Detecting Low Frequent Loss-of-Function Alleles in Genome Wide Association Studies with Red Hair Color as Example 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28145.
Multiple loss-of-function (LOF) alleles at the same gene may influence a phenotype not only in the homozygote state when alleles are considered individually, but also in the compound heterozygote (CH) state. Such LOF alleles typically have low frequencies and moderate to large effects. Detecting such variants is of interest to the genetics community, and relevant statistical methods for detecting and quantifying their effects are sorely needed. We present a collapsed double heterozygosity (CDH) test to detect the presence of multiple LOF alleles at a gene. When causal SNPs are available, which may be the case in next generation genome sequencing studies, this CDH test has overwhelmingly higher power than single SNP analysis. When causal SNPs are not directly available such as in current GWA settings, we show the CDH test has higher power than standard single SNP analysis if tagging SNPs are in linkage disequilibrium with the underlying causal SNPs to at least a moderate degree (r2>0.1). The test is implemented for genome-wide analysis in the publically available software package GenABEL which is based on a sliding window approach. We provide the proof of principle by conducting a genome-wide CDH analysis of red hair color, a trait known to be influenced by multiple loss-of-function alleles, in a total of 7,732 Dutch individuals with hair color ascertained. The association signals at the MC1R gene locus from CDH were uniformly more significant than traditional GWA analyses (the most significant P for CDH = 3.11×10−142 vs. P for rs258322 = 1.33×10−66). The CDH test will contribute towards finding rare LOF variants in GWAS and sequencing studies.
PMCID: PMC3226656  PMID: 22140526
3.  A Genome-Wide Screen for Interactions Reveals a New Locus on 4p15 Modifying the Effect of Waist-to-Hip Ratio on Total Cholesterol 
Surakka, Ida | Isaacs, Aaron | Karssen, Lennart C. | Laurila, Pirkka-Pekka P. | Middelberg, Rita P. S. | Tikkanen, Emmi | Ried, Janina S. | Lamina, Claudia | Mangino, Massimo | Igl, Wilmar | Hottenga, Jouke-Jan | Lagou, Vasiliki | van der Harst, Pim | Mateo Leach, Irene | Esko, Tõnu | Kutalik, Zoltán | Wainwright, Nicholas W. | Struchalin, Maksim V. | Sarin, Antti-Pekka | Kangas, Antti J. | Viikari, Jorma S. | Perola, Markus | Rantanen, Taina | Petersen, Ann-Kristin | Soininen, Pasi | Johansson, Åsa | Soranzo, Nicole | Heath, Andrew C. | Papamarkou, Theodore | Prokopenko, Inga | Tönjes, Anke | Kronenberg, Florian | Döring, Angela | Rivadeneira, Fernando | Montgomery, Grant W. | Whitfield, John B. | Kähönen, Mika | Lehtimäki, Terho | Freimer, Nelson B. | Willemsen, Gonneke | de Geus, Eco J. C. | Palotie, Aarno | Sandhu, Manj S. | Waterworth, Dawn M. | Metspalu, Andres | Stumvoll, Michael | Uitterlinden, André G. | Jula, Antti | Navis, Gerjan | Wijmenga, Cisca | Wolffenbuttel, Bruce H. R. | Taskinen, Marja-Riitta | Ala-Korpela, Mika | Kaprio, Jaakko | Kyvik, Kirsten O. | Boomsma, Dorret I. | Pedersen, Nancy L. | Gyllensten, Ulf | Wilson, James F. | Rudan, Igor | Campbell, Harry | Pramstaller, Peter P. | Spector, Tim D. | Witteman, Jacqueline C. M. | Eriksson, Johan G. | Salomaa, Veikko | Oostra, Ben A. | Raitakari, Olli T. | Wichmann, H.-Erich | Gieger, Christian | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Martin, Nicholas G. | Hofman, Albert | McCarthy, Mark I. | Peltonen, Leena | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Aulchenko, Yurii S. | Ripatti, Samuli
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002333.
Recent genome-wide association (GWA) studies described 95 loci controlling serum lipid levels. These common variants explain ∼25% of the heritability of the phenotypes. To date, no unbiased screen for gene–environment interactions for circulating lipids has been reported. We screened for variants that modify the relationship between known epidemiological risk factors and circulating lipid levels in a meta-analysis of genome-wide association (GWA) data from 18 population-based cohorts with European ancestry (maximum N = 32,225). We collected 8 further cohorts (N = 17,102) for replication, and rs6448771 on 4p15 demonstrated genome-wide significant interaction with waist-to-hip-ratio (WHR) on total cholesterol (TC) with a combined P-value of 4.79×10−9. There were two potential candidate genes in the region, PCDH7 and CCKAR, with differential expression levels for rs6448771 genotypes in adipose tissue. The effect of WHR on TC was strongest for individuals carrying two copies of G allele, for whom a one standard deviation (sd) difference in WHR corresponds to 0.19 sd difference in TC concentration, while for A allele homozygous the difference was 0.12 sd. Our findings may open up possibilities for targeted intervention strategies for people characterized by specific genomic profiles. However, more refined measures of both body-fat distribution and metabolic measures are needed to understand how their joint dynamics are modified by the newly found locus.
Author Summary
Circulating serum lipids contribute greatly to the global health by affecting the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Serum lipid levels are partly inherited, and already 95 loci affecting high- and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides have been found. Serum lipids are also known to be affected by multiple epidemiological risk factors like body composition, lifestyle, and sex. It has been hypothesized that there are loci modifying the effects between risk factors and serum lipids, but to date only candidate gene studies for interactions have been reported. We conducted a genome-wide screen with meta-analysis approach to identify loci having interactions with epidemiological risk factors on serum lipids with over 30,000 population-based samples. When combining results from our initial datasets and 8 additional replication cohorts (maximum N = 17,102), we found a genome-wide significant locus in chromosome 4p15 with a joint P-value of 4.79×10−9 modifying the effect of waist-to-hip ratio on total cholesterol. In the area surrounding this genetic variant, there were two genes having association between the genotypes and the gene expression in adipose tissue, and we also found enrichment of association in genes belonging to lipid metabolism related functions.
PMCID: PMC3197672  PMID: 22028671
4.  Variance heterogeneity analysis for detection of potentially interacting genetic loci: method and its limitations 
BMC Genetics  2010;11:92.
Presence of interaction between a genotype and certain factor in determination of a trait's value, it is expected that the trait's variance is increased in the group of subjects having this genotype. Thus, test of heterogeneity of variances can be used as a test to screen for potentially interacting single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In this work, we evaluated statistical properties of variance heterogeneity analysis in respect to the detection of potentially interacting SNPs in a case when an interaction variable is unknown.
Through simulations, we investigated type I error for Bartlett's test, Bartlett's test with prior rank transformation of a trait to normality, and Levene's test for different genetic models. Additionally, we derived an analytical expression for power estimation. We showed that Bartlett's test has acceptable type I error in the case of trait following a normal distribution, whereas Levene's test kept nominal Type I error under all scenarios investigated. For the power of variance homogeneity test, we showed (as opposed to the power of direct test which uses information about known interacting factor) that, given the same interaction effect, the power can vary widely depending on the non-estimable direct effect of the unobserved interacting variable. Thus, for a given interaction effect, only very wide limits of power of the variance homogeneity test can be estimated. Also we applied Levene's approach to test genome-wide homogeneity of variances of the C-reactive protein in the Rotterdam Study population (n = 5959). In this analysis, we replicate previous results of Pare and colleagues (2010) for the SNP rs12753193 (n = 21, 799).
Screening for differences in variances among genotypes of a SNP is a promising approach as a number of biologically interesting models may lead to the heterogeneity of variances. However, it should be kept in mind that the absence of variance heterogeneity for a SNP can not be interpreted as the absence of involvement of the SNP in the interaction network.
PMCID: PMC2973850  PMID: 20942902
5.  ProbABEL package for genome-wide association analysis of imputed data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:134.
Over the last few years, genome-wide association (GWA) studies became a tool of choice for the identification of loci associated with complex traits. Currently, imputed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) data are frequently used in GWA analyzes. Correct analysis of imputed data calls for the implementation of specific methods which take genotype imputation uncertainty into account.
We developed the ProbABEL software package for the analysis of genome-wide imputed SNP data and quantitative, binary, and time-till-event outcomes under linear, logistic, and Cox proportional hazards models, respectively. For quantitative traits, the package also implements a fast two-step mixed model-based score test for association in samples with differential relationships, facilitating analysis in family-based studies, studies performed in human genetically isolated populations and outbred animal populations.
ProbABEL package provides fast efficient way to analyze imputed data in genome-wide context and will facilitate future identification of complex trait loci.
PMCID: PMC2846909  PMID: 20233392
6.  Predicting human height by Victorian and genomic methods 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2009;17(8):1070-1075.
In the Victorian era, Sir Francis Galton showed that ‘when dealing with the transmission of stature from parents to children, the average height of the two parents, … is all we need care to know about them' (1886). One hundred and twenty-two years after Galton's work was published, 54 loci showing strong statistical evidence for association to human height were described, providing us with potential genomic means of human height prediction. In a population-based study of 5748 people, we find that a 54-loci genomic profile explained 4–6% of the sex- and age-adjusted height variance, and had limited ability to discriminate tall/short people, as characterized by the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC). In a family-based study of 550 people, with both parents having height measurements, we find that the Galtonian mid-parental prediction method explained 40% of the sex- and age-adjusted height variance, and showed high discriminative accuracy. We have also explored how much variance a genomic profile should explain to reach certain AUC values. For highly heritable traits such as height, we conclude that in applications in which parental phenotypic information is available (eg, medicine), the Victorian Galton's method will long stay unsurpassed, in terms of both discriminative accuracy and costs. For less heritable traits, and in situations in which parental information is not available (eg, forensics), genomic methods may provide an alternative, given that the variants determining an essential proportion of the trait's variation can be identified.
PMCID: PMC2986552  PMID: 19223933
height; heritability; prediction; genomic profiling; discriminative accuracy; area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC)

Results 1-6 (6)